Governor cuts security staffing

Friday, December 3, 2004

CHICAGO -- Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich ordered sweeping changes Thursday to his security detail, reducing its size, restricting out-of-state travel and requiring training from the U.S. Secret Service and a new code of conduct.

The move comes after Blagojevich ordered a review of his security detail following an investigation by WLS-TV of Chicago that raised questions about the conduct of some of Blagojevich's bodyguards and the cost of taking them on out-of-state trips.

The reports alleged state troopers who guard the governor allowed friends and family to travel in police cars and a trooper was suspended for not reporting that he saw the governor's personal driver drinking on the job.

The reports also said the governor had 12 bodyguards, costing nearly $23,000 in hotel bills, during the Democratic National Convention in Boston last summer, and 10 bodyguards during a later trip to California.

"The concerns they raised are valid, and we take them seriously. I can't promise that we'll never make any mistakes. But I can tell you that if we do, we'll act quickly to fix them," Blagojevich said in a statement.

Blagojevich reduced the size of his security detail by 25 percent, which he said makes it comparable to units in states of similar size. He also said he will cut back on the number of bodyguards traveling out-of-state with him.

In addition, Blagojevich issued an executive order requiring bodyguards to undergo training by the U.S. Secret Service. It also requires the director of the Illinois State Police to issue a code of conduct to address job behavior and professionalism.

In a letter to The (Springfield) State Journal-Register on Thursday, a bodyguard of former Gov. George Ryan said there were no allegations of misconduct or mismanagement in the security detail until Blagojevich came into office.

"Here we go again, the political fixing of a problem that wasn't a problem before it was fixed by the political process," Larry Esper wrote.

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